This is a compilation of short stories that fans of crime fiction in general, and the local product in particular, will have on their must read lists.
Written from 1859 to 1933, this selection of 17 stories provide a fascinating insight into the social issues that were being addressed by crime fiction authors during that period. Not surprisingly, the delivery may have changed - and I suppose we're not tracking murderers through the bush on horseback much anymore - but the fundamental worries then are not a lot different from those that are being written about now. Nor is the standard of the storytelling, which in this book is absolutely fantastic. The collection contains stories from some of our finest early writers - John Lang, William Burrows, Mary Fortune, James Skipp Borlase, BL Farjeon, RP Whitworth, Campbell McKellar, Francis Adams, Ernest Favene, Guy Boothby, Roderic Quinn, Coo-ee (William Sylvester Walker), EW Hornung, 'Rolf Boldrewood' (Thomas Alexander Browne), Randolph Bedford, Norman Lindsay and Alan Michaelis.
Particular favourites of mine were the Mary Fortune stories (not just because she stands out amongst the male writers), the Norman Lindsay story and the Francis Adams - which contains references to events in The Murder of Madeline Brown; as an added bonus many of the stories are based in and around the Goldfields of Victoria (which gives the whole thing a particularly local feel for me anyway). All the stories are replicated from their originals, so the language and terminology is exactly as it was at the time - giving a very accurate representation of the style of writing, talking and living for the period. This has the added bonus of giving readers a look at how long so many of our local colloquialisms have been around, and conversely, how much has been lost.
Despite the possibility of local flavour, not just because it contains entries from favourite authors, this Anthology is a fascinating glimpse into our history, and into the quality and breadth of the Australian crime fiction writing fraternity, which it's easy to forget has been around for a long long time now. Australian have always told their own stories, and books like THE ANTHOLOGY OF COLONIAL AUSTRALIAN CRIME FICTION remind us how strong that tradition has always been.